This is the ultimate chocolate birthday cake that both kids and adults love! It’s rich, moist, chocolaty and super flavorful, with the most delicious chocolate topping. It’s super quick and easy to make, and my go-to recipe for any event.
Baking a chocolate birthday cake is one of my favorite things to do, making something sweet that will be enjoyed at that moment by the person we’re celebrating. My little daughter Danielle turned two recently, and while I’m so grateful for the time we shared together during this past year, it’s been wonderful to be able to put her in daycare recently so she can make some new friends.
As a baking blogger who has a serious sweet tooth, I couldn’t send my daughter to school without a delicious treat to share on her birthday! Since there are many kids in her class, I needed something that could easily be shared with everyone, but also enjoyed by both kids and adults. The solution: easy chocolate birthday cake.
This chocolate birthday cake recipe is my favorite to make for celebrations. I’ve tested many in the past few years, and keep coming back to this one. It’s easy to make, yet so rich and full of a deep chocolate flavor.
When making birthday cake for a crowd, you want a recipe that is scaleable, which is why I love this chocolate cake. My previous chocolate cake recipe is very similar to this new one, but I save that more for weeknight desserts and make this new recipe for special occasions.
How to make chocolate birthday cake
For starters, you’ll need to figure out how many people you are serving. The recipe makes enough for a 9×13- inch pan, but for a large crowd like school classrooms or events, I double it and use a 12×16-inch pan (30×40 cm).
Once you’ve got that figured out, grease your pan and preheat the oven to 350°F/180° while you prepare the cake batter. This easy chocolate birthday cake requires no mixer or special ingredients. I like to use instant coffee to bring out the chocolate flavor, but if you don’t have it hot water works just as well.
Melt the butter (you can even do this in the microwave), and slowly add the milk and mix. Set this aside to cool slightly while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, cocoa powder, sugar and salt. Add the butter mixture, eggs and sour cream and mix until combined. Pour in the hot water/coffee and whisk until smooth.
Scrape the batter into the pan and bake for 30-35 minutes, until a skewer or toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Be careful not to overabake the cake, since that will make it dry instead of soft and moist. Let the cake cool completely before frosting.
Chocolate frosting options
You can top this chocolate birthday cake with anything you want, but I like to use a simple chocolate frosting. Both of these frostings are ganache based, which gives them a shiny finish that is perfect for celebrations. Whichever recipe you choose, make sure to chill the cake in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour to set before serving. Keep leftovers in the fridge as well, but serve the cake at room temperature for the best texture.
Milk chocolate fudge frosting
This is my favorite frosting for a kids chocolate birthday cake. The addition of butter and powdered sugar give it a fudgy, creamy texture that is irresistible. When making the frosting just for adults, I like to add in some coffee granules for a mocha flavored frosting. It’s all up to your personal preference!
To make the frosting, place all the ingredients in a medium-sized saucepan over low-medium heat. Stir continuously until everything is melted and there aren’t any lumps. Let the frosting cool slightly for 10-15 minutes before spreading over the chocolate cake.
Chocolate ganache frosting
This frosting is great for adults. It’s the same frosting I use in my previous chocolate cake recipe so you can see what it looks like here (so shiny!). With only two ingredients, it’s the perfect rich topping to complement the chocolate cake.
To make the ganache, place the chocolate and heavy cream in a medium heat-proof bowl and microwave in 20-30 second intervals, stirring in between until melted. You can also do this over a saucepan of simmering water. Pour the ganache evenly over the cake.
You can also make my chocolate buttercream frosting if you prefer a thick and spreadable buttercream frosting. If making for kids, I recommend using milk chocolate and omitting the cocoa powder for a more subtle flavor.
Other birthday cake recipes:
- 1 3/4 sticks (200g) unsalted butter
- 1/2 cup (120 ml) milk
- 1 3/4 cups (240g) all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
- 2/3 cup (65g) cocoa powder
- 1 1/2 cups (300g) granulated sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 2 large eggs
- 2/3 cup (160 ml) sour cream
- 1/2 cup (120 ml) hot water or coffee (hot water mixed with 1-2 teaspoons instant coffee powder/granules)
- 7 oz. (200g) milk chocolate
- 7 tablespoons (100g) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
- 3/4 cup (90g) powdered sugar, optional (gives a more fudgy texture)
- 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons (150 ml) heavy cream
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon instant coffee powder/granules , optional, for a mocha flavor
- 7 oz. (200g) semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
- 3/4 cup (180 ml) heavy cream
- Preheat oven to 350°F/180°. Grease a 9×13-inch pan. Set aside.
- Melt the butter, add milk and mix, then set aside to cool slightly.
In a large bowl, mix together the flour, baking soda, cocoa powder, sugar and salt. Add the butter mixture, eggs and sour cream to the dry ingredients and mix until just combined. Add the hot water/coffee and whisk until smooth.
- Scrape batter into prepared pan. Bake cake for 30-35 minutes until a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean. Avoid overbaking which will make the cake dry. Allow cake to cool completely on a wire rack.
- In a medium-size saucepan place all the ingredients. Warm it over low-medium heat, stir at all times, until the chocolate/butter is melted and there are no lumps. Let it cool slightly in the saucepan for 10-15 minutes.
- Place chocolate and heavy cream in a medium heat-proof bowl, and microwave in 20-30 second-intervals, stirring in between each interval, until melted. Alternatively, set the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water, stirring occasionally, until melted.
- Cover the cake evenly with the frosting. Add sprinkles, if desired. Refrigerate for 1 hour until set. Keep in the fridge.
Cake can be kept in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to 5 days. Serve at room temperature for the best texture.